Reel Change: Flipping the Script on Black Maternal Health 

Giving birth should be a celebration of life – a moment of profound connection – but for many Black women, it has been marred by a health care system that wasn't designed to protect them. The statistics are maddening: Black women in the United States are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications compared to white women, an inequity that has persisted for generations. The question that plagues us is why? What drives this alarming racial disparity in maternal health outcomes?

Graphic showing poster for Birthing Justice film

Despite widespread misconceptions, the unconscionable deaths of Black women before, during, and after birth are not a result of individual behaviors. Rather, the roots of these disparities run deep, intertwining with systemic racism, racial stereotypes, and a health care system that too often fails to provide adequate support and care for Black mothers. This grim reality was the driving force behind the Foundation’s decision to partner with Women in the Room Productions on the documentary, “Birthing Justice.” We knew that bringing about real change meant telling the full story, and that's where leveraging the power of narrative change through art comes into play.

Art has always been a powerful medium for societal change. It can capture complex emotions, provoke thought, and challenge ingrained beliefs. From spoken word poetry and performance art to the visual arts and music, artists employ a variety of methods to humanize statistics, giving a platform to stories often overlooked by mainstream media. This helps promote dialogue, foster empathy, and inspire action on issues that may have gone unnoticed.

With Black maternal health, we, along with other philanthropic organizations, recognized the potential of using a documentary as a vehicle for change. In support of “Birthing Justice,” we moved beyond research papers and long reports to draw in larger audiences and capture more people’s attention, and the end result was magical. “Birthing Justice” has been shared far and wide, from local community theaters to legislative meetings, sparking deep and enriching conversations along the way.

Through this film, we’re building support for a broader transformation in how society perceives and addresses this crisis. For too long, the narrative around Black maternal health has been marked by silence, erasure, and implicit biases. By amplifying the stories of Black mothers – by shedding light on the injustices they face – we’re helping to rewrite the narrative and turning art into action.

The journey to birthing justice is a shared one, requiring the commitment and collective efforts of individuals, organizations, and institutions. Incorporating art to propel narrative change as part of a larger strategy contributes not only to immediate improvements in Black maternal health but also to a fundamental shift in the way society tackles systemic disparities. Together, we can create a future where the birthing experience for all Black mothers is filled with joy, respect, and the dignity they deserve. 

Check out an excerpt from the film below